6 Automotive Photography Tips to make Photography fun again

Rolls Royce with people walking by

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about photography it is that no matter how good your photos look, you won’t love them if it’s something you don’t enjoy. Photography is all about creativity. If you can’t find new ways to be creative, you will quickly burn out and get bored. One of the best things I ever did with my own photography journey was exploring different types of photography. I have always enjoyed taking photos of nature, horses, and an assortment of product photography, but I was starting to get bored photographing the same things over and over again. I have always been very interested in cars, specifically sports cars, but I never combined my love of photography with my interest in cars. This past January I had decided to try something new and explore the world of car photography. I found a car show where I was allowed to take photos and it introduced me to the automotive photography world.

Cadillac CTS V in black and white

When I first started with automotive photography I instantly knew this was going to be very different from how I normally shoot. Doing something totally different from how I normally shoot helped me think outside the box and be more creative with my photography. Here’s some of the main things I had to adapt to immediately when I began shooting cars.

  • Cars are VERY reflective
  • All cars have good and bad angles on camera
  • Photos look better at headlight level not eye level
  • Not all cars look good on camera
  • Cars with headlights turned on look better
  • Matte colored cars are easier to photograph

Cars are VERY reflective

Until I took my first photo of a car I never realized how much cars reflect light. It makes it very difficult to get a good shot because some parts of the car have shadows and other parts have very intense highlights from the reflections. If its not overcast and the lighting isn’t evenly distributed it makes it very difficult to get a balanced exposure. Having a circular polarizer helps to cut some of the glare and reflections when shooting cars and I highly recommend you get one if you are interested in automotive photography. Another tip is to choose a time of day when the sun isn’t its brightest or finding a nice shady spot to photograph will instantly make your photos better.

Mustang Gt taillights
Blue Mustang GT taillight
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All cars have good and bad angles on camera

Something I learned when I started automotive photography was that what I think looks good with my own eyes won’t always look good on camera and vice versa. Most of my favorite shots were taken from an angle that I wouldn’t have thought would look good on camera. Most of the time with photography we try taking photos from all different angles and most of the time we fail. It’s a game of trial and error until you find the perfect angle. We can never improve if we are not actively seeking new angles and better compositions in our photos. It can be discouraging at times when it feels like we aren’t making progress but that’s when we need to be the most creative and explore new ways to shoot. In the digital age there isn’t a price to shoot thousands of photos like in the film days. Behind every beautiful photo is a lot of bad ones that were deleted.

Red Ferrari 488
Ferrari 488

Photos look better at headlight level not eye level

I quickly found out that when you get down low and take a photo at headlight level it transforms the photo and showcases a sports cars aggressiveness and design. Of course this doesn’t mean that every photo has to be down low at headlight level but if you want an eye catching angle always make sure you get a shot from down low.

Nissan 350z with a rocket bunny wide body kit
Nissan 350z wide body kit
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Not all cars look good on camera

Don’t be fooled into thinking that if a car looks good in person it will look good on camera. Some cars are naturally more photo worthy than others. Sometimes a car that has a lot of lines and curves looks good in person but it doesn’t pick up well on camera and doesn’t appear as stunning as it does in person. The opposite is also true, sometimes there are cars that don’t appear to be that stunning in person that turn out to beautiful on camera. This is why it’s important to try new things and shoot all types of cars because you never know what will look good on camera.

Rally porsche 911
Porsche rally car

Cars with headlights turned on look better

If possible it’s best to take photos with the headlights turned on. This trick works best on newer cars with LED headlights but it can work for any type of headlight as well. Taking a photo with the headlights turned on makes the car feel more alive and gives the photo a pop. Most sports cars have very aggressive headlight designs and turning them on makes them appear even more sporty and aggressive. If possible, try getting a shot with just the daytime running lights as these often look better than just headlights alone.

Blue BMW M3 with headlights on
BMW M3
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Matte colored cars are easier to photograph

This one is more about something I learned and less of a tip. You can’t change the color of the car you are photographing but if you have the choice between multiple cars, typically if one is matte it will be easier to photograph. You might be wondering why would matte be better for photos? It comes down to reflections, like I mentioned earlier, cars are very reflective objects but when a car is matte the reflections are cut down a lot. Overall the car will be more evenly exposed because it won’t have harsh highlights like a regular car would.

Matte black Mercedes with a white stripe
Matte black Mercedes

These are the 6 big things I learned about photographing cars. If you are interested in photographing cars I hope these tips and tricks will help you out.

Check out some of my favorite car photos below.

One thought on “6 Automotive Photography Tips to make Photography fun again

  1. Reblogged this on JOHN'S PIX: Pictures (great) by my old friend John ("Jet") and commented:
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